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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

My last two weeks as Chief on Vorovoro.

FIJI | Tuesday, 30 September 2008 | Views [1841]

Me & my expert wingman Dave on the chiefs mat during a Sevusevu.

Me & my expert wingman Dave on the chiefs mat during a Sevusevu.

Firstly an apology, for taking so very long to write and publish my final blog from my month as Chief of Vorovoro way back in September. Life has been a little surreal for me since then, with hardly time to think, let alone sit and write my usual lengthy blogs... I'll touch on the reasons for this briefly in this and future blogs.

So, after the first two weeks of finding my feet and managing the gulf of difference between being a tribe member and a chief, and getting over the loss of team Fiji to a funeral, things were in full swing on Vorovoro again! High on the adgenda were of course the showers, the ongoing and big project started in August. Many of the gardening projects were put off due to the weather not healping and on Tuesday the four peaks challenge was cancelled after lots of rain the night before (which was welcomed of course for our water supply!). Tuesday saw a wonderful Sevusevu day with Tui Mali, where Geoff and Mary (Amy's parents) who'd been staying on Vorovoro for around 6 weeks, presented a very special Tatau to Team Fiji and Tui Mali, which I've written about seperately here. This set us up for a classic Tuesday session, with all the boys and Tui Mali on top form. The remainder of the week saw rendering on the showers take shape and the tribe helped dig trenches in the gardens in preparation for the rainy season soon apon us. On Thursday Giles returned to Vorovoro with Ben after their week in New Zealand climbing in the snow, for his last few days on Vorovoro before heading off home to England to begin his studies to become a doctor! Team Fiji had plans in place to have a big celebration with their favourite brother this Friday and the tribe were sworn to secrecy... which was funny as whilst sat at the Thursday night grog session the boys openly discussed their plans in Fijian with Giles, who speaks a LOT of Fijian sat in attendance... nice one boys! Lol. Thursday afternoon was a classic as Giles managed to finally catch the elusive trigger fish whilst on the reef trip, which I was witness to. He was buzzing after that, its been a long time coming, nice work sir!

Friday was setup to be a classic Vorovoro day. Giles was slotted onto the school trip in Mali for his last chance to see the kids for what might be a while and then Team Fiji leapt into action building a Lovo and decorating the village and grand bure ready for a celebration. Tui Mali was on island too, which gave everybody an added sense of occassion. When Giles came back from the school trip we dressed him in the traditional garments and he took pride of place at the head of the mat with Tui Mali and Ben for a powerful and emotional ceremony with speeches from Tui Mali, Ben and Giles. The tribe had been practising Meke all week so that we could perform it for Giles. We ate a magnificent Lovo and had a brilliant and long night around the Tanoa with Giles. The team were on great form producing one of my most memorable nights on Vorovoro.

The following week started off with me wondering if the reeds would ever turn up and if my months main project would happen in my month at all! The showers were still being finished off, more digging in the gardens was required to finish the trenches and various other small scale projects were underway this week. One of these was the idea to build a bench up near the new showers to commemorate the passing of Tale and Kasa's father Peta Tale one year ago. This week also saw myself and Ben Keene come to some agreement about an opportunity for me to conduct some work for Tribewanted after my Vorovoro stay, as I was keen to remain in Fiji and he needs some help here with the Vitika trek option and a bit of promotion work in Nadi. There were three key visitors to the island this week, coming to see Ben, discuss the business, and to enjoy the island again. Ulai, Tui Mali's nephew and Tribewanted Director/Lawyer was coming, Jonathan from Oceanic Marketing in Suva who has helped Ben from the early days with marketing and merchadise and Anthony Ho, Tribewanted's Fiji based accountant. This was a nice opportunity for me to meet them albeit briefly before I set myself up in Fiji for the next few months.

Monday saw the Sevusevu happen early this week as Tui Mali was due out of town on the normal Tuesday slot. After a big grog session we were up early for the sad departure of Giles from the island. Team Fiji insisted on a few Tanoa on the beach before the boat left, and we had a full singing session with grog on the beach. It was quite a moment, with Leavi sounding like I'd never heard him play and sing before, and he is always quite brilliant! It was a poignant moment, and as Giles left on the boat Tevita and Leavi were both in tears along with some tribe members swept up in the emotion. Api took Giles along towards the headland as myself and Ben marched Rejeli into the sea. When they reached the headland, Api turned back and sped back towards the buoy where Giles back flipped off of the boat (in his clean clothes for his flight!) for the crowd on the beach before holding a standing salute on the boat as Api took him off round the island the other way and away from Vorovoro... The rest of the day was a right off from that point. Team Fiji stayed on the grog mat ALL day, their way of mourning a big loss. This was something that caused a little friction on the island the following few days as Ben docked their pay for that day lost. Some new cultural lessons were made this week by Ben and the rest of us, proving that you can never fully understand something as complex as this culture, but at least we can continue to learn and build stronger links all the time.

On Wednesday the 24th September the reeds finally arrived from Nakawaga!! Team Fiji were on form and Eremoni's new roof was almost finished in one day! Pupu continued to work hard on the showers with his new assistant Jay and the whole place was flowing nicely. Thursday saw another excellent sustainability forum which was hosted this time by Ben Keene in the absence of Mr Katz and the tribe helped Team Fiji bash the mangroves to tie in the roof on Jim's house. The weekend saw some of the tribe go to church and come back with the usual glowing report.

The next week saw the start of some mat making with Francis and Va showing the tribe this skill, the showers were much nearer to completion and the chiefs bure roof would be the next one done... but before I knew it was coming, Tuesday was apon us and it was time to hand over to the new chief for October.

During the Chief handover ceremony I thanked everyone on the island and in the team for helping me through a tough month, one which saw the celebrations of the 2nd anniversary of the project [which included me being filmed making my acceptance speach by Fiji TV and that being aired a couple of weeks later around all of Fiji!], the start of the third year, the departure of the project director and the installation of a new one, the subsequent teething problems that came with that, two funerals, one massive project hangover, lots of tribe members, and lots of grog! I enjoyed the experience immensely, from fending off neighbouring villages advances for help from Vorovoro, cleaning the toilets and tidying the kitchen away after it had fed 30 people, to meeting new members and showing them around and answering tons of questions everyday. I hope I kept my energy levels high throughout the month, although I know of a few times where I faded due to the extra responsibilty!

Thanks must go to Giles and Ben for their guidance throughout, to Jim, Ben Katz, Amy and Dan for their constant support and to Ratu Tevita for always having the right words and the right advice... how I do not know, but he keeps on doing it!

Vinaka Vaka Levu Sara Tribe for having me as chief of Vorovoro for September. Apologies again for the very late blog, I've been soooo busy. Ooops!

Hopefully I can remain linked to the Tribewanted project into the future and if not at the very least I will be back to my second home some time in the near future... my heart is firmly attached to Vorovoro and all the wonderful people that make it what it is.

Ratu Paula.

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Me with the kids at Cawaro Village School during the Vitika Trek

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